The Importance Of Maintaining A Healthy Diet During The Covid-19 Pandemic

THE Covid-19 pandemic has caused a lot of undesirable changes in the day to day living of people worldwide. The greatest concern of many is to avoid catching the virus and at least recover if infected. Everybody is afraid of either dying and leaving their loved ones or losing their loved ones to Covid-19, indeed the pandemic has come with lots of insecurities, fears and depression.

By Ms Nomagugu Ndlovu and Dr Tecklah Usai

The fears associated with the Covid-19 pandemic can negatively impact on people’s eating habits. Reaching for comfort food during stress is a common thing to do for many people. Many of these foods, such as pizza, burgers and fries, are high in fat, sugar and salt. During these challenging times, it can also be tempting to cope by reaching for an alcoholic drink. Alcoholic beverages have little nutritional value and are often high in calories, and excess consumption of alcohol is linked to numerous health problems.

For some, the lockdown brought by the Covid-19 pandemic has made it impossible to access good nutrition due to reduced income in some families as a result of unforeseen retrenchments as well as restrictions in normal movement and operations. This particular group of people is at risk of being malnourished, making it difficult for them to fight off the infection should it catch them.

Good nutrition is important for maintaining one’s health, it is even more crucial during this pandemic in order to maintain a strong immune system. Good nutrition can reduce the likelihood of developing health problems such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer. Here are some tips that can be applied in trying to maintain good nutrition during the pandemic.

Tips for maintaining a healthy diet

  1. Eat a variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables, which are rich in vitamins and minerals as well as fibre.
  • Every day, eat a mix of wholegrains like wheat, maize and rice, legumes like lentils and beans, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, with some foods from animal sources (e.g. meat, fish, eggs and milk).
  • Choose wholegrain foods like unprocessed maize, millet, oats, wheat and brown rice when you can; they are rich in valuable fibre and can help you feel full for longer.
  • For snacks, choose raw vegetables, fresh fruit, and unsalted nuts.
  1. Drink water regularly. Staying well hydrated is good for the immune system. Stick with plain water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages to cut down on empty calories.
  2. Cut back on salt
  • Limit salt intake to 5 grams (equivalent to a teaspoon) a day.
  • When cooking and preparing foods, use salt sparingly and reduce use of salty sauces and condiments (like soy sauce, stock or fish sauce).
  • Replace salt with fresh and dried herbs in the ‘salt shaker’ on your dining table. Herbs and spices have been reported to possess various biological effects which may be beneficial to health.
  1. Reduce fats and oils. Replace butter and lard with healthy fats such as olive, sesame, peanut or other oils rich in unsaturated fatty acids. These help to support your immune system.
  • Choose white meats like poultry and fish which are generally lower in fats than red meat; trim meat of visible fat and limit the consumption of processed meats.
  • Select low-fat or reduced-fat versions of milk and dairy products.
  • Avoid processed, baked and fried foods that contain industrially produced trans-fat.
  • Try steaming or boiling instead of frying food when cooking.

It is easy to practise unhealthy eating habits during this stay-at-home period, but with a little thought and preparation, maintaining a healthy diet can be achieved. Do not allow the fears, depression and insecurities of the pandemic to derail you from good nutrition.

About the authors

Ms Nomagugu Ndlovu is a registered Nutritionist and a lecturer in the department of Food Science and Nutrition at the Midlands State University. She is a final year PhD candidate at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Ms Nomagugu Ndlovu has published 8 manuscripts in peer reviewed journals in the field of Food Science and Nutrition and is an upcoming, young woman researcher.

Dr Tecklah Usai is a lecturer in the department of Food Science and Technology Design at the Midlands State University. She has great research interest in human health, herbs and natural foods. Dr Usai has been awarded several merit certificates for teaching A level Food Science classes.

Department of Food Science and Nutrition, Midlands State University, Gweru, Zimbabwe

Correspondence: N Ndlovu, ndlovun@staff.msu.ac.zw; +263 772881974

 

 

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